The Healthy, Practical Plant-Based Diet: A Typical Day

[vegan stir fry image]

What do you eat during a typical day?

Even as the plant-based diet for athletes becomes more commonplace, people still ask me this question all the time.

And I like it — it’s an opportunity to explain that you can eat 100% plant-based and really, really healthily … without spending your life in the kitchen or subsisting on trail mix and sprouts (while living in a treehouse, I think).

I’m busy like anyone else. I have two young kids and work hard, and as a result, I’ve streamlined my diet so that it’s affordable and doesn’t take a lot of time.

But I do make food a priority, like it should be. I’m very happy with my version of a healthy, plant-based diet, and I’m happy to share it with you in this post.

A Typical Day on a Plant-Based Diet

I eat according to a few simple guidelines (e.g., until I feel mostly full). My focus is on simplicity and health, and one of the amazing things I’ve found is that over time my palate has adjusted so that simple, healthy food is the food that tastes good.

But there’s another important point here. I’ve set up my diet so that I eat the same types of meals most days until dinnertime, adding variety only within a certain category of foods (like mixing up the fruits or nuts in the smoothie, or choosing different veggies or dressing for the salad).

And what that means is that each day, there are relatively few decisions I have to make around food.

This is important because:

  1. The fewer food decisions you have to make early in the day, the better the choices you’ll make later (see: decision fatigue), and
  2. When you know ahead of time the types of meals you’ll eat, you can “engineer” your diet to include exactly what you want and none of what you don’t.

But I should add that what follows is only a “typical” day — this is the stuff I’ve consciously decided to eat on a daily basis. But because I’m a human, I like eating a muffin when my wife bakes them for the kids’ school, or the times when I have leftover (delicious) pasta for lunch instead of my usual salad. I don’t stress a bit about these little indulgences, because know that what I do most of the time is what matters.

With that, here’s what a typical day looks like for me.

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21 Kid-Friendly Ideas and Recipes to Help Them Love Vegan Foods

Woman with baby cooking at kitchen

Temper tantrums. Food shoved across the table (or even on the floor). A child that won’t touch the meal you just spent an hour preparing.

For even the best parents, mealtime with children can easily become one of the most frustrating and disheartening times of the day.
Maybe you’re raising a little one who runs away from anything green. Or perhaps your child hates mixed flavors or textures and cries when their food “touches.”

No matter what your situation may be, we can all agree on one thing:

We want our children to eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole, plant-based foods.

In my practice as a Registered Dietitian, I’ve helped families become plant-powered, and raising four little plant-based athletes myself, I know how difficult feeding your kids healthy food can feel.

But it’s not impossible. In fact, healthy eating can be fun (and tasty) for both the child and the parent.

It just requires the right approach.

21 Ways to Get Your Kids to Crave Plant-Based Foods

I’ve failed many times when attempting to feed my kids a healthy meal, but through both my own experiences and what I’ve learned while working with other families, I’ve developed a number of tips on how to get your kids to love vegan food.

Tips that actually work.

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Boost Your Performance! 3 Vegan Foods that Really Work

Watermelon slices on the wooden table

You’ve probably heard certain foods and drinks can boost athletic performance.

Coffee, for example, makes you run faster, and tart cherries reduce inflammation.

Researchers are finding that what you eat can actually boost cardiovascular efficiency, hasten recovery time, and increase immunity against common exercise-induced illnesses.

And the best part? Many of the best foods are vegan, cheap, and easily found at your local grocery store.

As a cardiovascular nurse, health coach, and endurance athlete, I love digging through literature on health and nutrition, and research on three of these performance-enhancing foods recently caught my eye.

So I teamed up with my podcast co-host, Jackson, to break down what you need to know to boost your performance with food.

3 Foods to Boost Athletic Performance

Below are three performance-enhancing foods that when incorporated into your daily routine, can lead to stronger racing and faster recovery. And what runner doesn’t want that?

Let’s start with one of my personal favorites:

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5 Effortless Ways to Eat Just a Little Bit Better

Fresh Turmeric Root

No doubt about it, it’s hard to suddenly start eating a whole lot better. Because while it’s no secret that eating almost exclusively whole, plant-based foods is a recipe for health, getting there is a journey that takes either a lot of time (my case) or a lot of willpower.

But if you’re a No Meat Athlete reader, you probably already eat pretty well (congrats!). So what next?

Over the past few months, I’ve made a lot of tiny upgrades to an already pretty healthy diet. Upgrades that take almost no extra effort (in some cases, none at all), but each makes a significant impact. And when you add them all up — or better, when tiny upgrades like this become your habit, and you make 20 or 50 of them over the course of a few months — your diet is substantially better for it.

Here are some simple ones to nudge you down that path.

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5 Non-Negotiable Vegan Foods to Eat Every Day (if You Want to Live a Long, Healthy Life)

berries

Everybody loves to talk about the latest and greatest disease-preventing superfood — but how many have you actually made a part of your daily diet?

As a cardiovascular nurse and nutrition consultant, I spend much of my time wading in the muck of preventable chronic diseases, and I’ve dedicated my life to understanding nutrition science and lifestyle medicine.

And more importantly for you, how those two disciplines can be used to prevent and treat disease.

What I’ve found is that certain health foods — normal foods, not hard-to-find superfoods — have a remarkable capacity to protect you from disease, increase athletic performance, and give you a fighting chance of living a long, healthy life.

Below I’ve compiled a list of five food types that meet this criteria. Foods that I recommend my clients eat every single day — without exception.

Here they are.

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The Secret to Healthy, Stress Free Eating

Somewhere in between Ann Arbor and Omaha, I learned the secret that would change the way I eat and plan my meals.

I don’t remember exactly where I was, because the whole book tour was something of a blur — 40 cities in 50 days to promote No Meat Athlete when it was published in 2013.

It was a different hotel every night. Sometimes with a fridge, sometimes not. No kitchens. No dishes. No blenders.

Basically, nothing that resembled the comfortable food routine I had at home. And as you can imagine, vegan restaurants aren’t exactly plentiful in places like Wisconsin and Nebraska (though Omaha actually surprised me).

So I learned an important rule for driving across the country as a vegan: when you find a good grocery store, stock up. On foods that you can eat on the go, with no prep.

Very quickly, I learned what foods worked best in the car to keep me from resorting to junk:

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What to Eat Before a Workout: 8 Easy Meals to Maximize Your Performance

What do you eat before a workout?

I’ve written about HOW to eat before a workout before. But I’ve come to realize that when people ask this question, they’re not looking for guidelines, but rather the specific foods that they can make — without having to think about it — to prime their bodies for a workout.

So the goal here isn’t to get that little half-percent edge on competition by being meticulous in your pre-workout nutrition. (For that, check out Ben Greenfield’s workout nutrition post and this one on 12-Minute Athlete about pre-workout meals.)

Instead it’s to eat something natural and quick, without a lot of planning, that’ll getting you 90 percent of the way towards perfect.

So that’s the motivation for this list: 8 simple, natural meals or snacks — vegan, of course — to eat before a workout. The criteria I aim for in choosing a pre-workout meal:

  • Lots of carbohydrate, a little bit of protein (a 3:1 ratio is best, but you don’t need to be exact with it)
  • Whole foods, with just a few exceptions where it will benefit performance
  • No caffeine — no doubt it helps performance, but for everyday nutrition I leave it out

I’ve divided them into categories based on when you should eat each. If you’ve got the time and aren’t worried about getting too many calories (say, for a weight loss goal) eat one from each category before a big race or workout; otherwise eat only the just-before-the-workout meal.

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Can You Still Eat Ultra-Healthy on a Budget?

We all want to eat healthy foods — plant-based, organic, non-GMO, and whole, whenever possible.

Whenever possible.

For me and many others, that translates as “when we can afford to do so.” After all, a healthy diet can cost three times more than an unhealthy one, and my family (and I bet yours) has got the grocery bills to prove it.

But are we supposed to just settle? That’s a hard choice to make, especially when it’s not just your health, but your kids’ health that’s at stake.

Today, I hope to make that choice just a little bit easier for you. Not by answering the “Is it worth it to buy healthy foods?” question — that’s up to you — but instead providing some objective guidance as to which healthy foods are the most worth your hard-earned money.

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